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October 18, 2011 > History: City halls of Union City

History: City halls of Union City

By Myrla Raymundo

There was no Union City City Hall during its incorporation in 1950. After several meetings of the Union City City Council at Barnard Elementary School, the Alvarado Firehouse, located at 3841 Smith St., became the first City Hall. The City Administrator and two other City employees performed daily business from the firehouse. Given the small size of the Firehouse, it did not take long for the City staff to outgrow the facility.

City Hall then moved to 309 H. St (at the corner of 4th St.) in Decoto. Until 1966, when the Union City Police Department was formed, police services for Union City were contracted to the Alameda County Sheriff Department. With the new Police Department, plus continued growth, the City needed more space.

In February of 1966, the City leased a building at #1154 Whipple Road. In January of 1967, an expansion added 4,200 square feet, to create a final size of 10,000 square feet. The new expansion made room for larger City Council chambers and a growing Police Department.

City Hall was a rectangular building along Whipple Road but with the addition on the west end of the building along Central Ave, it became L-shaped. City Council Chambers were located in the corner of the "L" and the Police Department took up the rest; entrance to the Police Department was on Central Ave. Holding cells had bars, but it the same drop-down ceiling as the rest of the building. Occasionally, an enterprising prisoner would try to escape by climbing into the drop-down ceiling.

As the City continued to grow, so did the need for a larger City Hall. Planning for a City Center complex, that included City Hall, a Police Station, and Library, began in 1971. The City's General Plan proposed a 10-acre site near the future BART station, but another group proposed a 24 acre site along Alvarado-Niles Road between Dowe and Central. Later the plan shifted to a lot owned by the New Haven School District, across Alvarado-Niles Rd. from Logan High School. In 1974, the New Haven School District approved the sale of the land to the City for $256,000.

A special election was called on May 27, 1975, for two tax measures, one for the City Center complex and one for continued local bus service. The measure for the bus service was approved by the voters, but the measure for the City Center complex was not. On August 6, 1976, City Hall was dedicated to Police Chief William Cann, who was shot on June 11, 1974 and died a short time later of his wounds.

In February 1977, the City received a federal grant of $5 million for construction of a City Center complex. Groundbreaking for both the City of Union City and the New Haven School District, as the NHUSD was building their new Educational Services building ceremony, was held April 15, 1977. Congressman Don Edwards was the guest speaker.

On March 8, 1979, a new City Hall was ready and city workers began to move in. An opening ceremony was held April 21, 1979 with Guest of Honor, U.S. Senator S. I. Hayakawa. The City Center complex was also named for Police Chief William Cann.

Presently, Union City operates under a "Council-Manager" form of government. Five
councilpersons are elected to four-year overlapping terms on an at-large basis. The Council determines policy, adopts ordinances and resolutions, adopts the budget, and sets tax rates. Union City's City Council appoints a City Manager who is the chief administrative officer whose responsibility is to carry out Council policies and day-to-day administration of the city. Larry Cheeves is the current City Manager and Tony Acosta, current Deputy City Manager.

The City Council meets twice a month for regular sessions. Study sessions are held on specific matters that may arise. Advisory commissions and committees are appointed by the Council to assist legislative and administrative branches of city government.

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